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Old 01-25-2005, 03:06 AM   #1
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Proof of God?

I had to write this for one of my classes. Everyone's thoughts and opinions are welcome.


Necessary Existance
After the apparent earth-shattering conclusion of Meditation I - it is possible that nothing is truly known - and the re-grouping effort begun in Meditation II, Rene Descartes attempts to prove that “God exists necessarily” in the third Meditation. Descartes does this by beginning with the notion that he is, if nothing else, a thinking thing. Even a possible deceitful god - which Descartes believes to be the only reason to openly doubt everything - could not deceive one about their existence. In other words, one has to exist in order to be deceived.
From this, he realizes he must prove the existence of God before he can determine if such a being deceives. And so, Descartes reflects on what thinking things do. They think thoughts. Descartes stratifies thoughts in two fields: 1) images (or ideas); 2) formal. The latter can also be categorized as objective thoughts; the kind of thoughts that require some object. According to the writer, some thoughts in this category are often called volitions, emotions, or judgments. As to the former (thoughts as images or ideas), Descartes believes that some are innate (from within the thinker), some are adventitious (from outside sources), while others are simply creations of the thinker. As an almost “for the record” Descartes clarifies two things about adventitious ideas: 1) they must be so as to not depend on the thinker’s will; 2) they still may come from things inside the person - some other faculty might produce these ideas within the thinker.
Descartes goes on to further dissect ideas. In one sense, ideas are simply one mode of thought. They are, in other words, one form in which thoughts exist. In another sense, ideas are like images. With this in mind, he proceeds to articulate that an image of something is never more real than the something itself. The object (cause or model) of some idea (effect of cause) has to have at least as much reality as the idea. Upon further reflection, he realizes also that something cannot come from nothing, nor can something great come from something less great. In addition, Descartes states that “although one idea may originate from another, there cannot be an infinite regress here; eventually one must reach a primary idea.”
What conclusions can be reached here? Descartes asks. After careful thought, he puts forth that if any of his ideas (images) turns out to be so great that they could not originate within himself, it would mean that there must be some other cause. The obvious question that follows then is, is there such a great idea? Descartes proceeds to go through a list of ideas. There are ideas which represent the infinite (God), and there are ideas which represent the finite. According to Descartes finite ideas come in two classes - the inanimate and the corporeal. Descartes has little, if any, trouble in realizing that inanimate ideas can easily be explained away as the thinker synthesizing other images to create new ones. For example, the idea of an angel might just be the idea of a person and the idea of wings sown together. As far as corporeal ideas are concerned, Descartes claims to see any such greatness that would be difficult that would make them inconceivable to the thinker.
However, the infinite realm does seem inconceivable to Descartes. The very description of God seems impossible to Descartes to fully understand. God, as he understands, is “a substance that is infinte, independent, supremely intelligent, supremely powerful, and which created both myself and everything else.” These characteristics are far too great for Descartes to comprehend. Since this is the case, God necessarily exists as the cause of the idea of God. Furthermore, when considering God exists as the cause, along with the notions that the cause cannot be any less great than the effect (the idea), and an object is only perfect if it exists, Descartes states the perfect cause must exist. “God necessarily exists.”
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Old 01-25-2005, 05:40 AM   #2
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Re: Proof of God?

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Originally posted by blueyedpoet
I had to write this for one of my classes.
copy it from someone else
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Old 01-25-2005, 06:26 AM   #3
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Thanks for posting this. After all these threads on the topic I have come to the conclusion that this topic of what you believe or do not believe is way to personal to discuss here
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Old 01-25-2005, 07:52 AM   #4
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you don't have to get personal, i'm just looking for people to philosophically discuss this argument
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Old 01-28-2005, 02:37 AM   #5
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I actually did an essay on Descartes Meditations, specifically on meditation V.
It frustrated me so much.

Basically all the clown was saying was that even an athiest believes in god because they they can concieve of the idea of god. It was preposterous. I'm an athiest so I found it offensive.

What about Pink dogs who have heads that look like a frogs and smell like mothballs mixed vegemite? I can concieve of that so does that exist?

I can't remeber much about the essay I wrote. I might have a look at that blasted meditation again. The chappy got more credit than he deserved i reckon. He was probably a ponsy git.

The necessary existence idea was just too hard to handle so I just bagged the bloke throughout the essay i think.

Still passsed though.
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Old 01-28-2005, 07:59 AM   #6
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Descartes' Meditations are a fascinating read, but if one reads them completely, he often contradicts his own assertions and, when pressed on the question of God, he uses the same escape hatch as everybody else. We could dissect the meditations one piece at a time, but who has the time for that... ? If you've read them, you'll be able to understand and critique what I'm sayng. Keep track of the numbers as they correspond to both Descartes statements and my critique.

Descartes essentially contradicts himself by claiming that if we doubt everything (hyperboilical doubt) we can be sure only of one thing; if the mind can think about its own existence, it must be real. Hence, "Cogito, ergo, sum' - I think therefore I am. He establishes certain axioms (certainties) and concludes that the senses are not reliable transmitters of information because we have no way of being certain that they are not decieving us. He also concludes that the mind is more knowable than the body because we can have a clear and distinct idea of the mind, but not the physical body. This separation of mind and body is called "substance dualism".

By the Meditation 3, Descartes must have realized that he wasn't getting anywhere, so he used the fire escape. Here was his logic.

-Thinking suggests the existence of a mind.

-Thought are the product of our minds. Thoughts cause other thoughts/ideas etc.

-The mind is the first certainty, and therfore the most real thing. (3A)

-Nothing can be as certain as the first clear and distinct idea. (3b)

-The mind is the first thing we know exists, thus, that which creates the mind must be at least as real as the mind itself. (1)

(Descartes believed in God)
-If the mind could grasp the infinite, than an infinate being must have created it. (1) (3c)

-Senses could now be trusted again because an omnibenevolent being like God would not have given us senses that would decieve us. (2)

In the 4th meditation, Descartes attempted to answer the questions 'how can humans be wrong?' if God the senses could not deceive and 'how does evil exist?' if God is omnibenevolent (infinitely good). His logic:

-Some things are more real than others.

-God is more real than us. (3d)

-God is the most real thing. (3d)

-Anything that is not 100% real can make mistakes, so the mind is fallible. (3e)


I will skip a little on Meditation 5 because it is really just an ontological argument for the existence of God (singular), which like all ontological arguments, is imminantly flawed. Some of Descartes' med 5 flaws are a) there can only be one God and b) that if our minds can conceive of an infinite being then an infinite being must exist. The former is a false dilemma, the latter a fallacy of composition. Ontological arguments all too often take the form of convenient, self-reinforcing reasoning fallacies.

In the 6th meditation, Descarted attempts a separation of the mind and the body. (4)



Critique.

(1) These constitute a fallacy of composition. To assume that which creates the mind must have the same properties as the mind is logically flawed. As an example, consider the following statement:

"The players on the team are great, therefore the team is great." We know this is not necessarily the case. The NY Rangers (sorry fans) provide us with a terrific example of this flaw. Unfortunately, Descarte's consideration is even less reliable because he still makes the extraordinary assumption that there's a creator involved without providing much evidence.

(2) The same as (1) applies, except I'd like to highlight here that Descartes makes the reference to God in the singular, ignoring the possibility that there are a plural number of creators. Since he never logically provides a reason for his decision to narrow down the number of possibilities, his singular reference is a false dilemma. You can't arbitrarily eliminate other possibilities that fall within your reasoning pattern without some justification, or you commit a flase dilemma.

(3) You'll notice that I've placed (3) in 5 places during my summary of Descarte's argument (a,b,c,d,e). That's because these claims are somewhat contradictory. You'll recall that Descartes, in Med 3, wrote that nothign can be as certain as the first clear and distinct idea (3a). He then claimed that if our minds can grasp the infinite that an infinite being must have created it (3c). Problem is, he also argued that the mind is fallible (3e), admitting that our thoughts can be wrong. If our thoughts can be wrong, then our perception of infinity and an infinite being can surely be just as wrong.

Further, if the mind is the first certainty and the most real thing (3a), then how can God (a thought of Descarte's) be more real than the mind (3d)? In other words, how can God be more real than the mind if Descarte's major premise is that the mind is the first real certainty and that nothing can be as certain as the first certainty?

(4) If the mind and body are completely separate, how does the mind move the body?


In fairness to Descartes, he was not in the best of health at times and also faced massive pressure from the Church, which regularly excommunicated, tortured and executed those whose works or writings didn't fall inline with church doctrine

Jon
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Old 01-28-2005, 08:06 AM   #7
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I just take a page from postmodernism. It's impossible to prove (and, by extension, disprove) the existence of God, because we're talking about an invisible Being we cannot empirically see. Secondly, the nature of God is wholly subjective and no religion can agree on what "God" is.

Since we're inherently dealing with "subjectivity" and "absolute Truth" here, postmodernism would say that any argument one way or another is not credible. It's all human opinion. I agree with that.

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Old 01-28-2005, 10:11 AM   #8
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continued.

(2) This is a hasty conclusion. First one must prove the existence fo God and then the omnibenevolence of God before one can assert that we are endowed with god given perfect senses.

Melon is also right here. Only thing I would add is that postmodernism has its own contradicitons. Consider that it, for the sake of brevity, basically claims that all truth is relative or that there is no truth. Unfortunately, both of those are universal claims about the non-universality or non-existence of truth. Despite this contradiction, it's really very tough to argue that truth is not relative and not subjective and consequently we seem to be left with relativity.

Jon
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Old 01-28-2005, 01:01 PM   #9
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I am currently reading Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and there is a very interesting argument/joke in it. It describes a form of evolution that is so mingboggingly perfect and coincidental that it claims it disproves the existance of God. Usually people argue that perfect things prove the existance of God but the book states this...

God is based on faith alone
Proof negates faith
Therefore proof of God negates the existance of God

It is kind of a ridiculous argument but it also rings true. If people need to have the existance of God proved to them, then they do not have faith.
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Old 02-09-2005, 07:33 PM   #10
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bsp77 - I'm not sure what perspective you're coming from, but just to point out that Douglas Adams was not only an atheist, but a radical atheist to use his own phrase.
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Old 02-09-2005, 07:36 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by Klink
Only thing I would add is that postmodernism has its own contradicitons. Consider that it, for the sake of brevity, basically claims that all truth is relative or that there is no truth. Unfortunately, both of those are universal claims about the non-universality or non-existence of truth.
Yes. You've reached the ultimate paradox of postmodernism that even academics chuckle over: by dismissing all metanarratives and "absolute Truth," they've created a new metanarrative.

Aside from that chuckle, I find that it's still quite true.

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Old 02-09-2005, 08:22 PM   #12
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So Melon, what is your background with postmodernism? Any favorite philosophers? I'm curious since I study Latin American Literature and I occasionally use theory in my analyses.

I've read some Descartes but I have to admit I haven't read all of Meditations. However, I believe the whole "cogito ergo sum" idea is truncated and oversimplified. I prescribe more to the Self/Other philosophy meaning existence is determined both by our interior experiences as well as our interactions with other people.

Any way, as far as proof of the existence of God, the best thing I can come up with is I can't prove it. I feel it just like when I look into my son's eyes I can feel his love for me and my love for him. My universe is open both to quantitative and qualitative data. I guess that's why I'm in the Humanities and not the hard sciences.
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Old 02-09-2005, 08:26 PM   #13
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I've always found Descartes' arguement interesting. However, if "God" really means something to you, in the sense of a relationship, then you don't need someone to prove He exists.
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Old 02-09-2005, 08:40 PM   #14
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Originally posted by LivLuvAndBootlegMusic
However, if "God" really means something to you, in the sense of a relationship, then you don't need someone to prove He exists.
Amen brother.
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Old 02-09-2005, 08:49 PM   #15
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Amen brother.
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